Member Engagement Model

Defining and Measuring Member Engagement

Increasing member engagement is a key objective for many membership organisations, though most are yet to define it let alone measure and grow it!

Over the years many experts, both industry and academic, have written and refined definitions of consumer engagement and employee engagement (for example, Vivek et al. 2005, Economist Intelligence Unit 2007, Dwivedi 2015; Forrester Consulting 2008, Witemeyer 2013) but it seems that no-one has distilled this work and applied it to the membership sector. Until now.

Research by Design has combined its extensive research experience of the membership sector with an in-depth review of the literature to create a member engagement definition that provides clarity and scope for measurement.

Research by Design’s member engagement definition has four key components that integrate behavioural, cognitive, emotional and social characteristics:

Engagement toolkit diagram

Behavioural characteristics identify levels of activity and effort invested by members in their organisation. Behavioural measures can include, for example, the time spent on the website, the number of training events attended in the past year, and a member’s email open rate. These measures provide insight into how members are transacting with an organisation.

Cognitive characteristics help define how aware members are of their organisation and the extent to which they ‘get the bigger picture’. Cognitive measures establish, for example, how members perceive the organisation and how well it captures their attention and stimulates their interest. These measures help understand what members are thinking in relation to their membership.

Emotional characteristics establish the depth and meaningfulness of the relationship members have with their organisation. Feelings are tricky things to measure in any context, yet critical to the decision to renew, recommend and upgrade. Emotional measures include questions that understand feelings such as passion and pride. They give insight on how members feel about the organisation and their membership.

Social characteristics identify how connected members are – both to the organisation and to other members. The ways we connect and build community have been extended and transformed by digital technologies, making this a critical component of engagement. Social measures tap into the analytics provided by these platforms as well as assessing a member’s sense of community and connectedness.

Research by Design has brought these four components together to provide the following definition of member engagement:

"Member engagement is the creation of a deep and meaningful relationship between the member and the organisation, that endures over time and drives renewal, upgrade decisions and advocacy. It goes beyond joining and includes member involvement and interactions as well as their connections with the organisation and its member community. Engaged members are aware and ‘get the bigger picture’; they are passionate and proud to be associated with the organisation."

The behavioural component is the recognised need for member involvement and interactions. Cognitively, members are aware and ‘get the bigger picture’. Emotion is captured through deep and meaningful relationships, and the passion and pride that members hold. And the social component is the overall connection with the association and its wider membership, and their sense of community and belonging.

Not explicitly part of the member engagement model but still important to the definition, we have added the purpose of engagement (which is of course to help drive renewals, upgrades and advocacy), and recognition that engagement needs to be sustainable and endure over time.

Get in touch to learn more about Research by Design’s member engagement model.